Hope

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This word.  It’s only four letters, but it has so much meaning.  During a time of darkness, I couldn’t mutter this word.  I have been in darkness far too long, and today, this beautiful day, I could finally see the hope that I have been searching for.

This hope comes in the form of a doctor that took time to get to know me, friends that support me, and a family that loves me right where I am.

Today, I arrived at my new doctor’s office about 40 minutes early.  My appointment was at 9:00, and they told me I had to be 30 minutes early, so, just to be sure, Robert and I left at 6:00 this morning.  You see, because of where we live, we have to drive to San Antonio, which is almost 2 1/2 hours away.  There are no psychiatrists in our “town” (granted, it’s an hour and 15 minutes away, but still), which really saddens and angers me.  But that’s for another time.

I figured we would be waiting for the 9:00 appointment time, but I was pleasantly surprised when they called me back at 8:40.  The man (the physician’s assistant that I will be seeing) greeted me in a warm and friendly way, and immediately started with the questions.  He had just read all of my paperwork (28 pages worth!), and already felt that he had a good understanding of me, but he wanted to get to know ME.  Who I am.  What my struggles are.  What my strengths are.  He wanted to know about my history.  From the time I could remember.  How things got worse every time I had a baby.  How my brother died from suicide (because of his battle with bipolar).  How I have coped since then.  The fact that I have had to quit jobs that I loved, numerous times, because of my battle.  He wanted to know me.  All while scribbling countless notes on his yellow legal pad.

After talking with him for about 45 minutes, he went to visit with the doctor (who owns the practice) about me. They were in the other office for 20 minutes, going through my history, talking about my lows and my highs.  Talking about my struggles.

They came back in together with a very strong and united front.

After talking through my highs a little more (is this hypomania, or just “really good days?”), they decided.  They had a strong diagnosis. Together.  They both felt that I do in fact have bipolar II, with mostly low lows.  They called it “soft” bipolar II.  They knew immediately how it needed to be treated, and the first step is weaning off of medications that are doing nothing for me.  The second step is slowly starting a new medication that is often termed “the miracle drug” (and I know first hand because my best friend is on it and she is a new person!).  It has to be started very slowly because there’s a 1/10,000 chance that I could get an all-body rash because of it, but I’m willing to take that chance ;-).  They also decided to go back on a medication that my old doctor recently took me off of because it’s the best mood stabilizer out there, and I have a good history with it.  The biggest monster was to attack the depression, which will be done with the new medication.

Not only did they have all these new ideas for medication changes, they treated me holistically.  They told me to start taking 4,000mg of fish oil.  I need to get regular exercise.  I need to stay out of bed during the day-no more naps.  That will also help me sleep better at night.  I need to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  And, very importantly, they believe I need to keep seeing a counselor weekly.

All of these things will help stabilize my moods.  It takes more than just medication.  It takes a holistic approach.

I asked about food, and they said that for some people food makes a difference, but the research shows that exercise is mostly important.

They even gave me samples of the mood stabilizer because it’s very expensive.

I left there feeling like I could breathe.  Like I could laugh.  Like I could jump up in the air!

I immediately messaged my best friend.  My mom.  My support group here at camp.  And as usual received so much support and excitement for my hope.

So.  I have goals.  I have a solid plan.

I. Have. Hope.

Overcoming Obstacles

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This weekend at family camp, Robert and I (mostly Robert) will be speaking about overcoming obstacles as a family during a session.  He wrote it out, and I thought I would share it.  I love hearing from him on this topic because he has been an amazing husband throughout our entire marriage.

Overcoming Obstacles as a Family by Robert Crosland

We all face obstacles, bumps in the road, crisis moments, major turning points in our lives. This could range from some form of personal tragedy to a major medical issue to a lurking skeleton in the closet coming to light, or any number of a million possibilities that I could never list. The commonality in all of this is how we can find strength and support to get through them. These things can seem so overwhelming and often we do not understand how we are going to continue, or comprehend what life will look like from now on. We have been facing obstacles as individuals for our entire lives, however once we are married we now have to face them with others. While this ability to face them with others can be an amazing source of strength and support, it can also be overwhelming and feel like a crushing weight. We have not only our own obstacles, but those of the rest of our families as well. Things that on the surface seem to only affect one member of the family, can have dramatic effects on the entire family unit. Funny thing about families: something that affects one, affects the whole. We are suddenly in this together. As parents, when we simply want to put our heads in the sand and hide is when it feels like everyone needs something, there is a major school project to help with, dinner has to be made, parent teacher conferences to go to, major projects are due at work, there are no clean clothes left and the kid’s school says they have to be dressed, and the list could go on and on.

A little bit about our story: Courtney and I met a little over twelve years ago and were married seven months later. She was still attending SWT (now Texas State), and I had been invited by Howard Payne to take a semester off. While we were young and arguably dumb we did not have many major crisis moments of our own, but watched in the periphery as her brother struggled with depression. Our first moment of true shock was driving in Austin buying Christmas presents when Courtney’s mother called in hysterics telling her that Joey had just killed himself. We simply pushed through that situation and then when Courtney gave birth to Levi, our youngest son, a few months later and began suffering with her most severe bout of Post Partum Depression, we just kept pushing through and kept thinking that this was a season and would eventually pass. Then our real moment hit, and we wouldn’t be able to “push through” this one: in January of 2014 I received a phone call from a friend of Courtney’s while I was on my way home from church. She told me that she had been speaking with Courtney over the phone, and I needed to get home and get Courtney to a hospital right away. Her depression had been getting continually worse and warning signs were starting to pop up. We went to an emergency room and spoke with a counselor there, she was referred to an inpatient psychiatric hospital and we checked her in the next day. As I drove home from checking her in is when it really started to sink in that I had just left my wife in a place where they took away her shoe laces, and she didn’t get to choose when she left. Nothing would ever be the same.

So, what are we to do? How are we going to make it? Who is going to pull us through this? When will it ever be back to normal? Why did this happen in the first place?

I can’t even begin to tell you why. All I know is that we have a great, loving and sovereign God, and we live in a dark and broken world.

As for when will things be back to normal, you may never get back to your old normal. In the words of so many people that are much wiser than I: “Sometimes you just have to find a new normal.”

So what is the key? How do we get through this?

Be vulnerable. When we are vulnerable, an amazing thing happens: God’s strength is displayed. (2Cor. 12:9) When we are open and vulnerable all of the power that whatever calamity has struck us has is taken away. You see, no crisis has any power over God, and so sometimes our only rest comes from God. When we open up to each other we invite God to start working in our lives. God moves and works through His people. If you want to see God start doing crazy things in your life, then you need to start being real and honest with those around you, be 100% open and honest with your spouse, find some prayer and accountability with other christians and be open and honest with them. When you own the the thing that haunts you (mind you that I said you own it, not it owns you, or that it defines you) then it is no longer some dark thing hiding in the corner that threatens you.

It’s perfectly ok to cry. It’s perfectly ok not to have all of the answers today. It’s perfectly ok to ask God why. It’s perfectly ok to get it wrong sometimes. It is perfectly ok to be weak sometimes. It’s perfectly ok to not be ok.

So what does this look like?

For us that looked like adjusting what our income expectations were and Courtney staying home instead of working. Learning to ask for help, getting involved in a Celebrate Recovery program, and Courtney seeking regular counseling. Through that experience we learned so much about being defined by our identity in Christ, not our struggles, but at the same time being real with each other and with others about the things that haunt us.

I don’t know what your obstacles are, but I do know that you will only overcome the obstacles of this world by finding your strength in God and your daily support in His people. I would highly recommend you find a faith based group that deals with whatever obstacle your family is facing.